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Anglers are notorious for stretching the truth, so it's no surprise to find that several places in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands are claimed to be the World's Walleye Capital.

The walleye is the largest perch family member in North America. A long, streamlined fish, it has glassy, marble-like eyes and a mouth full of sharp teeth. Walleye are also called pike-perch, walleyed pike, pickerel, jackfish, jack salmon, dore, and ol' marble eyes.

The world record freshwater walleye, tipping the scales at 22lb 11oz (10.29kg) was caught in Greers Ferry Lake, Arkansas on March 12, 1982 by Al Nelson of nearby Higden. Twenty years later, and hundreds of miles away, in Cadillac, Michigan, Al Nelson (*1) is a dedicated fish decoy carver keeping alive one of the earliest forms of North American folk art. Could that be the same man? We checked. There are two Al Nelsons who have never met.

Here's an Internet roundup of some of the places claiming to be the Walleye Capital of the World:

Port Clinton, Ohio.(*2) A tiny fishing village on Lake Erie celebrates each New Year's Eve by lowering a rooftop 20-foot (9.14m) fiberglass model of a walleye known as Captain Wylie in the town square at midnight. Area restaurants offer walleye specialties, including walleye chowder and walleye bagels.

"Located on Lake Erie's Western Basin, Port Clinton and the nearby area house more than 16,000 docks and more than 1,000 U.S. Coast Guard licensed charter captains who fish the lake...Fishing is a year- round sport, even attracting ice-fishermen when the shallow Lake Erie waters freeze over in January, February and March."

"Baudette, Minnesota, Walleye Capital of the World.." says one website (*3). "Visit one of 50 year-round resorts and see Willie the Walleye." Willie is pictured on another site (*4).

Quinte West, Ontario, Canada. "The beautiful Bay of Quinte is a link to all of the communities and is a natural feature that makes us the Walleye fishing capital of North America," a Canadian website (*5) declaims "The City... is ideally located two hours east of the City of Toronto and just four hours west of the cosmopolitan city of Montreal."

On the other side of the Atlantic, in Europe, even bigger walleye are caught. But these are classified as saltwater fish, so they are barred from competing against the American freshwater variety.

Amsterdam: Walleye Capital of the World is a film about European walleye fishing, co-produced by John van Helvert, Peter Duyvelshoff and Jos Vanrunxt. "You will see them catch many big walleyes in the unique waters surrounding Amsterdam," says the film's website (*6). "Even the drills [schools?] of fish well over thirty pounds [13.6 kg] are shown live on camera. Walleye fishing trips to the famous Lake Ebro in Spain and Lake Sarulesti in Rumania are included in this film too."

Another web page promoting the video shows a great picture captioned Now That's What I'd Call A Walleye! (*7) The text says "John van Helvert, one of Europe's most noted sportfishermen and photographers, and Peter Duyvelshoff, cinematographer and walleye and salmon pro, take you to some of the most beautiful lakes and waterways in Europe.

"They show you how to catch walleye with different styles like the very successful vertical fishing technique. See them catch a 30 lb. walleye on this internationally acclaimed film! Filled with beautiful footage of the canals of Amsterdam, Lake Ebro in Spain and Lake Sarulesti in Rumania, the real focus is on the incredible walleye in Europe's waterways."

A World Walleye Championship is planned for October 16-20, 2002 on the Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. It will be sponsored by Cabela's, "the World's Foremost Outfitter."

The Prairie du Chien Chamber of Commerce site (*8) displays the motto Where the Bald Eagles soar and the Carp drops! It says "Prairie du Chien is located just across the Mississippi River from Marquette and McGregor, Iowa and north of where the Wisconsin River joins the Mississippi River.

"The city's location on the western end of the Fox-Wisconsin waterway, which connects the great lakes to the Mississippi River, gave it a great strategic importance for both Indians and white settlers. This town's name translates as 'Prairie of the Dog', and named for a Fox Indian chief whose name was Alim - 'dog' in English. When the French saw the prairie land that bordered the river, they called it Prairie of the Dog or Prairie du Chien in French."

If one of the contestants hauls in a record-breaking walleye, the ecstatic locals will no doubt claim Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, to be yet another Walleye Capital of the World. Perhaps they'll even be tempted to rename their town Prairie du Walleye!

* Related Links
  1. Al Nelson: Fish Decoy Carver
  2. Wylie Walleye
  3. Baudette, Minnesota
  4. Willie Walleye
  5. Canadian website
  6. Amsterdam: Walleye Capital of the World
  7. Now That's What I'd Call A Walleye!
  8. Prairie du Chien, WI - Where the Bald Eagles soar and the Carp drops!
Copyright 2002 Eric Shackle Story first posted May 2002

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